Backdrop designs for Scotland Tonight

I’ve been working on virtual set designs for most of the past year, but recently had the opportunity to work on a printed backdrop design for a set design by Toby Kalitowski at BK Design Projects. The new set was for STV’s Scotland Tonight, which broadcasts from their studios in Glasgow.

Pic Courtesy STV Press Office
Pic Courtesy STV Press Office
Pic Courtesy STV Press Office

The backdrops depict an stylised interior, and make extensive use of glass, and reflective surfaces. The scene is composed to provide the multiple opportunities to frame shots, whether they were wides or closely framed singles. To complicate matters, the scene makes extensive use of linear perspective, but is displayed on a curved surface. By a combination of different techniques, the scene artwork was provided pre-curved, so that installation would effectively de-curve the scene as it was applied to the lightboxes.

The new look went live on Monday, so I can now share some photos provided from the set.

Bakcdrops: Lightwell
Set Design: Toby Kalitowski
Set Build: Scott Fleary

Backdrop build: 3DS Max + Vray render

Sky Sports F1, The F1 Show digital backdrop

As I don’t often get to show my designs as spaces that the camera can move through, I have begun rendering clips from within the digital set models that do just that. These will appear in an updated showreel.

This particular clip is a little too slow and ponderous for a showreel, so I’ve added it to the portfolio instead.

Model built in 3DS Max and rendered with Chaos Groups, Vray.

V-Ray Digital Environments in Looper

Kevin Baillie of Atomic Fiction talks about using V-Ray  renderer in their digital effects work on a number of recent films, including some very impressive digital environments for Looper.

Scroll to 1 min 55 seconds to get straight to the Looper digital environments, but the rest of the interview is also worth viewing.

The interview is via the Chaos Group TV channel.

Update 31/01/2013 – Since writing this post, Atomic Fiction (via Twitter) have directed me to some online articles about their effects work on looper at the following locations:

The Art of VFX

FX Guide

Beware of spoilers!

LOOPER_digital environment

3D Forests

As an artist, every now and then you need to pull your socks up and catch up not only with the competition, but also the tools you use each day. I had one of these mini-epiphanies late last year after winning a comission to prepare a set of images for a new development set in forested hills on the island of Grenada. Usually, when forests and planting are required I would prepare the buildings and terrain using 3D but then add the trees and planting in Photoshop using photomontage and digital paint…lots of it. On this project I wanted to achieve something new and so opted to gamble on an all CG landscape approach.

Despite having tried various CG solutions to landscaping in the past, I found that either render times became prohibitive or the solution I was hoping for just wouldn’t work for me as advertised – Vue XStream comes to mind. As far back as 2003, I bought the Onyx Tree/Storm plugins for Max – I’d been amazed by a Tree Storm animation of some palms blowing  in the wind rendered using Electric Image at Londons DMW in 1997 and could never quite let go of that imagery – but the hardware and rendering limitations of that time meant that, as sophisticated as its trees looked, they just weren’t viable for a project with a deadline and the software remained uninstalled and pretty much overlooked.

River View Detail

What’s changed? A few things. Apart from the availability of more powerful hardware and software, I would cite  Peter Guthrie’s work using Onyx Tree as a motivational spur. Around the same time, I had belatedly discovered the performance benefits of using Vray Proxy meshes. Finally, I was pointed in the direction of a fantastic Max plug-in from Itoo Software called Forest Pack Pro.

Forest Pack Pro allowed me to populate irregular terrain with Vray Proxy models of tree and plant meshes (or rocks in the case of the river bed) with relative ease and because it references these meshes rather duplicates them, it keeps memory usage incredibly low and render times fast and manageable. The whole scene (shown in the aerial shot above) amounted to just 1,650,843 polys.

Aerial View Detail

I could have painted all of those trees digitally in photoshop, but given the number and variety of images required on this project I don’t feel I could have done it as well or as efficiently. Besides, I quite enjoyed playing and scattering trees about the landscape without having to worry to much about Max keeling over.